Understanding and Comparing the Female ASD Phenotype to Current ASD Diagnostic Practices

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Tkachenko, Barbara
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social communication and social interaction. ASD symptoms present differently in different individuals and can include: repetitive behaviours, interests or activities; poor non-verbal and verbal communication; lack of eye contact; and specific facial expressions (APA, 2013). Females are less likely to receive an ASD diagnosis than males when there is no presentation of intellectual disabilities. Late diagnosis of ASD in females may cause extra suffering that could be reduced with early formal diagnosis and access to support services. Research suggests that the low prevalence of ASD in females may be a result of biased diagnostic practices due to lack of understanding of the female phenotype and biased diagnostic tools used to assess ASD in females. This paper reviews the literature on understanding the female ASD phenotype and compares it to current diagnostic practices. It also explores a brief history of ASD and psychological diagnostics, current practices when diagnosing ASD (including gold standards tools), and implications for counselling. Finally, this paper makes recommendations to improve diagnostic practices to allow for earlier identification and treatment of females with ASD.
autism , autism spectrum disorder , female phenotype , diagnostic practices
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess